UKAS Revokes Accreditation
of UK Registrar
Professional, Environmental and Caring Services Quality Assurance Ltd., a UK-based registrar for the service and health care industries, became the first registrar to lose its ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 accreditation. UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) took the history-making step of revoking PECS QA's accreditations after the registrar refused to address important nonconformance issues. PECS QA reportedly locked out UKAS when the certification body tried to perform a site visit at PECS QA's facilities, according to Roger Brockway, head of the National Accreditation of Certification Bodies unit of UKAS.
PECS QA appealed the revocation of its accreditation to the United Kingdom's High Court, which in turn found that UKAS' actions were correct.
"No registrar need have its accreditation revoked," says Brockway. "We've been accrediting bodies for more than 10 years in the United Kingdom for ISO 9000, and this has never happened to anyone else. Instead of fulfilling the corrective actions, PECS QA was starting to block us, eventually denying us entry into their premises."
Of PECS QA's 500+ accredited clients, only four -- Glynn Electronics, Photofabrication Engineering Inc., PC Build Computers and Stanley Instruments -- are based in the United States. UKAS notified the clients that their certificates would be honored until August 23, 1997. UKAS took the additional step of contacting accredited registrars in order to help PECS QA's clients receive new certifications, and also set up a help desk with the Association of British Certification Bodies. The majority of PECS QA's clients have now been matched with new registrars, says Brockway.
PECS QA had previously maintained a business relationship with NTS Certification Services. "We were their North American affiliate, but we severed our relationship in April 1996," explains Richard Dunne, president of NTS-CS. Dunne cites conflicting business methods as the reason for the split. NTS then purchased Raytheon Quality Registrar and formed NTS Certification Services. When PECS QA's accreditation was revoked, NTS-CS picked up all of its former partners' U.S.-based clients.
In a letter to registrars, Brockway warned them not to automatically accredit any former PECS QA clients. In light of the registrar's inadequacies, the ISO 9000 systems of its client companies couldn't satisfactorily be determined without a site visit, notes Brockway.
"We investigated all of the clients -- borrowed NTS-CS's transfer policy because we're accredited by the RvA, not UKAS -- and followed our transfer policy," reports Dunne. "We visited all the clients, reviewed all the material and then scheduled an actual audit -- a continued surveillance audit -- within 90 days of transfer."
"The incident in the United Kingdom went beyond just a registrar not conforming to UKAS' criteria," says Joseph R. Dunbeck, CEO of the Registrar Accreditation Board. "There were issues involving noncooperation and lockouts. UKAS was totally within its rights and obligations. This has to be a cooperative venture between the registrar and the accreditor, and they have to be willing to share information back and forth."
Could this happen in the United States? "Yes," says Dunbeck.
PECS QA could not be reached for comment.
One Client's Reaction
PC Build Computers, a company with sites in Needham, Massachusetts, and East Hartford, Connecticut, services computer hardware. The company received its first ISO 9002 certification from PECS QA for its Needham plant in November 1996; the East Hartford plant followed suit in April 1997. PC Build Computers didn't receive UKAS' letter regarding the revocation of PECS QA's registrar accreditation; instead, they found out from their consultant, who had recommended PECS QA to them.
The loss of PECS QA's accreditation came as a huge surprise to PC Build Computers, says Rich Heritage, general manager of PC Build Computers' East Hartford facility. "We were relatively new to the arena, just having received our initial assessment last November," he explains. "We were just becoming familiar with the ISO 9000 process and everything that was a part of it, so we didn't have much background on the other organizations and agencies that provided such services and some of the potential problems they may have been having."
PC Build is now in the process of registering with NTS-CS. An NTS-CS representative has reviewed the audits performed on the company by PECS QA auditors, and has assessed its nonconformances, internal audit reports and quality policies. Based on that review, NTS-CS has decided to accept a transfer of PC Build's certification, says Heritage.
But it hasn't been entirely easy, he adds. "It's never painless when you're set up and you've had contacts with an organization that, to this point, has been responsive to you and acted very professionally, and then to suddenly find out midstream that they're no longer accredited."
Customer Service Standard
for Software Proposed
The Software Engineering Standards Committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has formed a planning group to examine the creation of an international customer service standard for software products and services. The SESC is the principal entity for development and refinement of software engineering standards within IEEE and coordination with other international standards bodies.
The group seeks members to join the effort. Work will begin immediately, with participants writing the action plan and reviewers critiquing it. The plan will be submitted to IEEE next year.
"The purpose is to provide a statement of direction to IEEE to see if there should be an international standard in the customer satisfaction area, as it relates to software, computer products and services," says Darrell Corbin, the group's chairman. "It's not developing the standard itself. We'll be examining the problem and making some recommendations."
No standards for customer satisfaction currently exist, according to Corbin, so the group will examine successful companies around the world to see what they do and what practices the SESC might consider for a standard.
Anyone interested should contact Darrell Corbin, senior principal scientist, The Boeing Co., telephone/fax (425) 865-5939 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Breakfast for Excellence Series, "Gray Matters: Managing the Soft Side of the Business to Improve Performance"; Oregon Quality Initiative; Beaverton, Oregon; telephone: (503) 207-4052; Web: www.oqi.org.
National Governor's Conference on Quality in Education; American Society for Quality; Dearborn, Michigan; telephone: (800) 248-1946; Web: www.asq.org.
The Second Annual Symposium on Lean Management, "Delivering Value Through Operational Excellence"; Productivity Inc.; Dearborn, Michigan; telephone: (800) 966-5423; Web: www.productivity-inc.com.
"The Disney Approach to Quality Service"; Disney University; Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida; telephone: (407) 828-1039; Web: www.disneyseminars.com.
1997 Society of Automotive Engineers International Truck & Bus Meeting & Exposition, "Intelligent Transportation for the 21st Century"; Society of Automotive Engineers; Cleveland, Ohio; telephone: (412) 776-7173; Web: www.sae.org.
1997 Oregon Quality Award Ceremony; Oregon Quality Initiative; Portland, Oregon; telephone: (503) 207-4052; Web: www.oqi.org.
The Ninth National Forum on Improving Health Care Quality, "Action: Taking Charge of the Future"; the Institute for Healthcare Improvement; Orlando, Florida; telephone: (617) 754-4800.
New Aerospace Standard Takes Flight
Phoenix Specialty Manufacturing Co., a manufacturer of washers, shims, metal stampings and machined parts based in Bamberg, South Carolina, has become the first company to be registered by Bureau Veritas Quality International Inc. to the new aerospace quality standard AS9000. Phoenix serves as a key supplier of several products to the aerospace and automotive industries, and also holds registration to ISO 9002 and QS-9000.
"We did it all as one bundle," says Robert Hurst Jr., president of Phoenix, referring to the company's ISO 9002, QS-9000 and AS9000 certifications. The company was already preparing for ISO 9000 and QS-9000 certification when AS9000 finally emerged. "We saw it as an important issue to get ahead of," Hurst observes of QS-9000, "and AS is making it even better."
At the adoption of ISO 9000, the U.S. Government withdrew military quality standards MIL-Q-9858 and MIL-I-45208, which left the aerospace industry without quality management standards to meet their industry's requirements. To fill the need, representatives of prime contractors and major suppliers such as Boeing, GE Aircraft Engine, AlliedSignal, Lockheed Martin Electronics and McDonnell Douglas developed the new AS9000 standard.
The process Phoenix went through to get their AS9000 certification closely resembled the ISO 9000 process, notes Randy Daugharthy, director of business development at BVQI. Many people have expressed interest in the new standard, and two aerospace companies have stated that they will encourage their suppliers to comply with the standard, he adds.
Personal Computers Lag
in Customer Satisfaction Index
During the second quarter of 1997, the American Customer Satisfaction Index revealed a drop in satisfaction with personal computers.
The 4.1 percent drop in customer satisfaction was the largest in the ACSI's seven-category industry breakdown. "The expanding base of household customers may be part of the satisfaction decline problem -- less experienced users are not as capable of making full use of the product or understanding instructions," notes the ACSI in its quarterly update.
"These new customers need more hand-holding than those who are more comfortable with the product," says Barbara Everett Bryant of the University of Michigan Business School. "With big chain stores and mail-order companies selling computers, the help is not as customized."
In 1995, Microsoft Corp. released Windows 95, its largest software release ever. But users discovered problems during the program's installation process, so Microsoft engaged 1,600 employees to answer questions. The company also offered customer support through the Internet, commercial online systems and a toll-free fax service.
As the computer industry grows, it will need to support its expanding customer base. In particular, software companies must provide more product follow-up and support.
North America's Future Shines
The future of North America's economy looks bright, according to a report released by The Conference Board. The study, conducted by The Conference Board, The Conference Board of Canada and the Centro de Estudios Economicos del Sector Privado, projects North America's gross domestic product growth at 3.6 percent this year and 3.1 percent in 1998, bypassing both Europe and Japan.
This upsurge, due to the three countries' increasingly strong domestic economies as well as rapid business and consumer spending, follows a period of major restructuring, the report concludes. Trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada increased to 28 percent of their total trade in 1996, up 5 percent from 1995.
"We are probably now at the point when about 30 percent of our total trade is trade among the three countries," says Gail D. Fosler, senior vice president and chief economist of The Conference Board. The strong U.S. dollar and Canada and Mexico's easy admittance to the U.S. market all contribute to the increasingly powerful North American economy.
North America's solid domestic growth also has stimulated direct foreign investment in the Western Hemisphere, which rose from $19.9 billion in 1995 to $29.9 billion in 1996. "There are no significant indications of a reversal in the pattern of strong growth in the foreseeable future," adds Fosler.
Battlefield Training Strengthens Teams
War is hell. And so is the workplace if teams don't have the necessary skills to tackle the problems they meet every day on the business battlefield.
Giving teams those skills is the purpose behind a course taught by Leading Concepts, a Louisville, Kentucky-based training company. The course teaches team-building and leadership skills during four-day, outdoor experiential workshops.
The company was founded by Dean Hohl, a former U.S. Army Ranger. Convinced of the value of his military training, Hohl has developed a program that offers businesspeople the same kind of training in leadership, communication and teamwork that he received as a Ranger.
"Whether at work or on the battlefield, without communication, leadership and teamwork, nothing succeeds," says Hohl. "On the battlefield, people die. In business, businesses die."
Leading Concepts runs its workshops from a military camp. Teams, led by two instructors, normally consist of eight to 14 individuals between 18 and 49 years old who have met general health requirements. Participants dress in Army fatigues and, armed with paintball guns, follow instructors through a series of Army training maneuvers. They learn the dynamics of patrolling, debriefing and the difference between leadership and management. Missions and lectures equip group members to lead others, build teams, overcome obstacles and obtain objectives.
Leading Concepts offers training at three sites: Louisville, Kentucky; Tucson, Arizona; and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The company will travel to its clients for a guaranteed minimum number of participants. Leading Concepts also provides its clients with follow-up consulting, coaching and other services relevant to the workshop.
For more information, call Leading Concepts at (800) 864-1772 or visit their Web site at www.leadingconcepts.com.
Ski Resort Gets Lift From ISO 9002 Certification
Will skiers start looking for certified slopes? Piau-Engaly, a French ski station, has been certified to ISO 9002 by registrar AFAQ for managing and maintaining ski lifts, meeting client expectations and maintaining a professional ski patrol for security and rescue services.
The resort -- located several miles from the Spanish border, high in the French Pyrenees -- hosts an estimated 300,000 skiers per season. It offers 21 mechanical lifts and 40 kilometers of slopes, retains 30 permanent employees and 80 seasonal employees, and nets an average profit of 30 million francs.
The resort's initial motivation in seeking ISO 9002 came from a French regulation scheme imposed in 1992, says Francis Guiard, the resort's general director for six years. Competition for winter sports business provided further motivation. "From this competition came the decision to find an organization that would follow a permanent improvement of service quality," he explains.
The biggest challenge the resort's employees faced at the beginning of the certification process involved documenting all their duties and processes, recalls Guiard. Employees were trained and encouraged to write out guidelines of all they did to obtain their finished product. The only problems they encountered came from personnel not keeping track of their work, he notes.
Guiard points to the value of ISO 9002 in assessing the needs of Piau-Engaly's clients and overall customer satisfaction. Since attaining certification, the resort's customer satisfaction rates have risen from 85 percent to 96 percent, with complaints dropping 20 percent.
ISO 9000 Support Group Offers Free
Training on the Internet
The ISO 9000 Support Group -- which helps companies interested in ISO 9000 registration to share information, knowledge and experiences -- is offering free online training to quality professionals.
The training is available at the group's Web site, www.isogroup.iserv.net. The site's three courses include how to write a good procedure, ISO 9000 basics and how to implement continuous improvement.
To access the courses, participants need a computer, a 14.4 or faster modem, sound card and Internet account. Any common Internet browser can access the courses, which use illustrations, text and audio files to create an interactive learning experience.
For more information, call the ISO 9000 Support Group at (616) 891-9114.